Auburn to Receive $938,000 in funds for Gulf Oil Spill Response Projects

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By Morgan Hightower

Auburn University is slated to receive $938,000 from a BP initiative that designated $5 million in rapid response funds for Alabama’s Marine Environmental Science Consortium. The funds are for immediate state research programs in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Auburn’s funding is spread over multiple projects in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, College of Agriculture and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

In May, BP announced a commitment of up to $500 million to the Gulf Research Initiative Open Research Program to study the impact of the spill, and its associated response, on the environment and public health in the Gulf. From that initiative, $5 million was designated for projects from the 22 four-year colleges and universities in the state of Alabama that make up the Marine Environmental Science Consortium.

John Valentine, chair of university programs at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, led the process by bringing together more than 100 MESC-associated scientists to participate in a series of thematic workshops, which addressed the assessment of ecosystems impacted by the spill; the distribution of contaminants; if ecosystems are recovering and how; and how the oil and dispersants change as they move through the ecosystem.

“The BP-Gulf Research Initiative funding demonstrates Auburn’s commitment to a collaborative approach to understanding the complex environmental impacts of the spill,” Auburn’s consortium liaison Ken Halanych said. “Given the pervasive nature of the impacts throughout Alabama and the Gulf region, Auburn’s marine and coastal researchers are committed to working with other scientists to develop the most comprehensive understanding and science for dealing with the spill.”

Some specific projects include assessment of the response of organisms to the spill; the fate and degradation of oil and dispersants; and the tracking of how oil and dispersants move through the ecosystem.

The research awards must be carried out in the next year and are just part of the 10-year Gulf Research Initiative. The researchers involved in the projects continue to develop multi-institutional and interdisciplinary teams to compete for future funds.

For a list of projects funded by the initiative, go to http://press.disl.org/12_4_10bpwork.htm.

(Information Source: Auburn University)

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